‘John Lennon’ acquitted in illegal drug case

A drug suspect from Minalabac town in Camarines Sur, the namesake of John Lennon, Beatles founder, co-songwriter, co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, was acquitted in a dangerous drug case by Judge Soliman M. Santos Jr., of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 61 in Naga City on March 23 this year, Bicol Mail found out recently.


Santos acquitted John Lennon Espeso for possession of dangerous drugs, under Section 11 of the Republic Act No. 6425 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in a Demurrer Resolution issued on March 23. Also cleared of a similar charge and for sale of dangerous drugs under Section 5 of the same law was Lorraine Santiago-Espelita, Espeso’s co-accused.


It was at Espelita’s house in Irayang Solong, Minalabac, Camarines Sur where the two accused were arrested in a buy-bust operation by the Minalabac Municipal Police Station.


Santos’ resolution showed that like in many similar drug cases, the accused were found not guilty not necessarily because they were not dealing in dangerous drugs but because there was a gross disregard of the procedural safeguards prescribed in the substantive law and jurisprudence on the chain of custody of the seized drug items by the police officers concerned. In particular, the police failed to ensure the insulating presence of the mandatory witnesses (an elected barangay official and a media representative) at the time of the apprehension. This is deemed to generate serious uncertainty about the identity of the items that the prosecution presented in evidence before the court, whether they were indeed those that were seized. Thus, there is at least reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused.


In the particular case of John Lennon Espeso, the body search conducted on him by the police officers, which resulted in allegedly finding dangerous drugs in his possession, was deemed illegal because there was no basis for his warrantless arrest in the house of Lorraine Santiago-Espelita, where he happened to be but was nowhere near her when she was allegedly drug dealing with the confidential informant and the police poseur- buyer in her house balcony. As a consequence of the illegal search, the seized drug item on the occasion thereof was deemed inadmissible in evidence by no less than several constitutional provisions. No evidence, no guilt.


At the time of the issuance or release of the Demurrer Resolution, both accused had been detained mostly at the Camarines Sur Provincial Jail and Penal Farm in Tinangis, Pili,Camarines Sur for two years, 10 months and 14 days since their arrests on May 9, 2019. Incidentally, their arrest three years ago coincided with election day this year.


Had they been found guilty, they would have been sentenced to the extremely heavy penalty of life imprisonment for each of the three cases involved wih respective high fines ranging from P400,000 to P10 million. The Resolution remarked that if they are really guilty, then they have already paid for some of it; but if they are truly innocent, then they have unnecessarily lost nearly three years of their lives.


In his Demurrer Resolution, Santos started with two quotes from the original John Lennon of The Beatles fame. First was “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Second was “A mistake is only an error. If it’s not corrected, it becomes a mistake.” The Resolution enjoined both accused to learn well the wisdom of these opening quotes, also stating that “These Lennonist whispered words of wisdom apply just as well to the concerned police officers too, if not also all other drug law enforcers.”


Actually, it is not only accused John Lennon Espeso who has a name with a music connection. So does accused Lorraine Santiago-Espelita. The very last footnote of the Demurrer Resolution notes that Nat King Cole’s song “Sweet Lorraine” was released in 1940, the birth year of the original John Lennon. Imagine.


Aside from being an RTC judge, Santos is Chair Emeritus of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines and a member of the Editorial Board of the International Review of the Red Cross.